Monday, October 27, 2008

Board Workshop on Capacity Management

The Board Workshop on Capacity Management will be this Wednesday, October 29th from 3-7 at the district headquarters with a Special Board meeting after it for one hour (this is the schedule at the Board webpage). The only two items on the Board meeting agenda are (1) for the Board to direct the Superintendent and staff to start looking at program moves and closure and consolidation of schools and (2) introduction of a plan for the capacity issues in the NE/NW. (The first item has a "placeholder" on its webpage for further details and won't be available until tomorrow. I'll update it then.)

FYI, there is no interaction with the Board during the Workshop (although they are likely to take a break and always like to talk with audience members but keep in mind, they may need a bathroom break) but you can sign up to speak at the actual Board meeting.

This article about school closures appeared in today's Times. I was surprised to see that this may come as early as next September (I need to check but I had been told the legal process takes a year.) From the article:

"Even if the district closes schools, that wouldn't save enough to fill the estimated $24 million budget gap next year.

That hole is partly due to rising costs — including those resulting from an agreement by the district five years ago to raise teacher pay so that Seattle wasn't one of the lowest-paying districts in the area. The School Board also voted last summer to add 102 new positions, even though it expected enrollment to decline. (In the end, it grew by about 300 students.)"

Also from the article:

"More school closures are far from a certainty. If the board votes to allow Goodloe-Johnson to start her evaluation, that simply would start the discussion of how many schools might be closed or merged, and how they would be chosen.

But there does seem to be some momentum in that direction.

"I'd rather close schools than lay off teachers and increase class sizes," said DeBell. "Or lay off custodians and have schools not be as clean, or lay off security staff and lessen the climate of security at schools."

There's the pragmatic Michael DeBell talking. There's no way out of this budget deficit and hard choices have to be made. (And as I said before, the only real way to get more money into this district is to get more students enrolled. Is that going to happen? Probably not but cuts may not be enough.)


Charlie Mas said...

Let's get real.

First, it is not a simple problem of surplus capacity. In some areas we have a surplus; in other areas we have a shortage. We don't have to reduce our capacity so much as we have to re-arrange it.

We cannot discuss reducing the surplus capacity in Seattle Public Schools without talking about the schools with the most surplus capacity. At the top of that list is Rainier Beach High School with about 600 empty seats.

There is no way to get serious about reducing excess capacity that does not begin with closing Rainier Beach High School. The building could possibly be repurposed as a skills center, but I suspect it is too big for that.

We will also have to rearrange middle school capacity in the southend and elementary school capacity in the central cluster.

Also, there is no way to get serious about fixing the capacity mismatch without creating additional high school space along the Ship Canal and elementary space in Queen Anne/Magnolia and to the northeast of the University of Washington.

Here's the quick prescription:

Close Rainier Beach. Three-quarters of the students can find space at Cleveland. The District will not only take up 7% of the overcapacity with a single move, they will cut all of the costs associated with operating a sprawling, empty building.

Open Lincoln as a high school. This will relieve the overcrowding at Ballard and Roosevelt and give families from Queen Anne, Magnolia and both sides of the Montlake Cut with a high school. Place APP there (400 students). That will open up more that 400 seats in the southend to provide space for the rest of the Rainier Beach students and some wiggle room for choice in the south end.

Place grades 9-12 of the Bilingual Orientation Center (about 200 students) at Lincoln.

Place grades 6-8 of the Bilingual Orientation Center at Hamilton. Hamilton will feed to Lincoln. Between the feed from Hamilton and the B.O.C., Lincoln would be a natural choice for IB.

With the SBOC moved out, repurpose Old Hay as an elementary school. This will relieve the overcrowding in Queen Anne and Magnolia elementaries.

If there's room, maybe the Center School can be relocated to Lincoln as a program within the school. It is INSANE and fiscally irresponsible for the district to be leasing space for this school while we have excess capacity.

The AAA is in Step 5 of sanctions under No Child Left Behind and is under federal mandate to reconstitute. Reduce the school to a K-5 and move it to T T Minor. Becoming a K-5 would meet the requirements and close the part of the program that is furthest from working. T T Minor is appropriate in size, location, and configuration. Current T T Minor students could become scholars at the AAA or they could find seats at other Central cluster schools with available seats such as Thurgood Marshall, Leschi and Madrona.

Move the New School into the AAA building and close Columbia. The AAA building is the right size, location and configuration for that program. I know that they were expecting to move into SouthShore, but the District will need it for something else.

Close Aki Kurose. It too is in Step 5 of NCLB sanctions and required to reconstitute or close. Close it. Open a new middle school at SouthShore. The District staff has always claimed, all along, that the SouthShore design would work for a 6-8 as well as a K-8. A new middle school may prove a better draw than Aki Kurose has proven to be. It can open with a new principal and new staff.

The new building should prove cheaper to operate than the old building. The Aki Kurose building could also become a skills center or the location of a Middle College.

An alternative would be to consolidate Aki Kurose at Rainier Beach, but following the reaction to the colocation of Denny and Sealth, I don't think the District is currently interested in another 6-12 school. This despite all of their talk about pathways and smooth transitions.

Move Summit K-12 to John Marshall and repurpose the Jane Addams building as a K-8. This will relieve some of the overcrowding in the northeast elementaries and at Eckstein. But, since the overcrowded elementaries are at the south end of the northeast cluster, and Jane Addams is at the north end of the northeast cluster, the District should move forward with re-opening Sand Point. After all, what are they keeping the school for if not to re-open it should the need arise? There can be little worse a contributor to excess capacity than an empty building.

When Sand Point is re-opened, the District may be able to close John Rogers since the Jane Addams K-8 could take over that reference area.

Summit should be given a generous budget to renovate John Marshall and make it into the school they want. The renovation at Marshall can take a while as the K-8 can start as a K-1 and grow one grade per year. That would allow up to three years for Summit to move out.

It is likely that an elementary in West Seattle will also have to close, but I will need to consider the options further before I make any recommendations.

Final tally:
Buildings Closed: 3 - Rainier Beach, Aki Kurose, Columbia

Buildings Opened: 1 - John Marshall

Buildings Repurposed: 6 - Lincoln, Jane Addams, Southshore, AAA, T T Minor, Old Hay

SolvayGirl said...

I guess Charlie see no hope, or reason, to have a QUALITY middle and high school in the southend. Let's just close all the schools south of the ship canal and make southend kids ride long metro rides to somewhere else.

Why not reopen Rainier Beach as a combination performing arts and environmental science magnet and make use of the terrific facility and its proximity to Lake Washington, Pritchard Beach Wetlands and the Audubon Center at Seward Park. I think something like that would attract all the kids in the neighborhood.

Ditto with Aki, close it to get a new admin in place and reopen as some sort of magnet school to attract families.

As for moving The Center School...it won't have its wonderful partnerships with Seattle Rep, etc. if it's far away from Seattle Center, so moving it isn't really a viable option. Even if it moved to Rainier Beach, it would not have the opportunities to partner with performing arts professionals. Close it if you must...but don't think it could work easily in another location.

The biggest reason enrollment numbers are high in the northend is that people buying homes are well aware of the disparity of quality of SPS schools from north to south so families with children will often buy north when they can afford to.

Closing down our southend schools without viable, neighborhood replacements will not help the children who live here get a good education. Those who can will flee for private schools--hurting the District even more.

There has got to be a way to make all of the schools as good as the few desirables, otherwise the District will bleed students until it dies.

anonymous said...

Charlie is right in that there is excess capacity in the south end, and half full school are just not sustainable. If Rainier Beach closed and joined Cleveland at the Cleveland site or if Cleveland closed and joined Rainier Beach at the RB site, you would one less school, but it would be a school operating efficiently and at capacity. If the school was running efficiently it would be much more feasible for the district to move forward with some sort of transformation plan....say to a performing arts or environmental science magnet type program (both great ideas by the way solvaygirl).

The district attempted (albeit a weak attempt) to help RB and Aki with the SE initiative. It has not helped.

I like Solvygirls idea of reinventing a few south end schools, and would support that 100%, however there is no reason that it can't be done in conjunction with combining and/or closing schools that are not running efficiently.

The problem is that if these reinvented schools eventually become successful, sought after schools, and the south end families that are currently sending their kids north decide to stay in the south end, then viola you have a lack of capacity issue. But I guess that bridge could be crossed when we get to it.

TwinMom2003 said...

No matter what region of the city...I think a great education should be available for your children.

That said, I don't believe that if all kids kept to their regions the capacity issue would be resolved.

We live in the NE Cluster and less than half a mile from our reference school. We were not able to gain admission to our reference school for Kindergarten - and my understanding - directly from Tracy Libros - is that there was no general ed. enrollment from outside of the cluster.

The same volume of students that applied last year - plus an additional 2-300 are expected for 2009-2010. There is no space to enroll these kids as the cluster is currently over-enrolled - with music, art, and science rooms all converted to classrooms this year to accommodate the Kindergarten classes that were added. There is nothing left other than covered patio spaces, or adding portables.

There is no space for any more - yet more are expected and genuinely needed by the district if they are looking to grow enrollment.

Our family can not afford private school. If we are not able to attend public school for lack of space we will have to move to a neighboring district.

We are fighting and advocating for public schools and doing everything we can to stay - but we only get one shot when it comes to our children growing up and their education. We don't have time for experiments or to believe the district if they ask for just a few more years to work things out.

Jet City mom said...

I'd rather close schools than lay off teachers and increase class sizes," said DeBell. "Or lay off custodians and have schools not be as clean, or lay off security staff and lessen the climate of security at schools."

I thought it was in the teacher union contract what maximum class sizes were allowed to be- so regardless- class sizes would not increase.
Additionally- do schools not currently have site based budgeting, meaning the budget committee ( principal) submits the budget- & has digression on how many hours of custodian time etc needed?

Private schools like the Northwest school- have significant student participation into the care of the building.
Garfield also had students doing clean up .
We can learn to be flexible.

However if it means Summit can get rid of that joke calling himself a security guard- I say BRING IT!

TwinMom2003 said...

I have nothing against rolling up my sleeves -- I'll help maintain the grounds, the website, whatever.

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...


Have you heard anyone talking about trimming administration, especially in light of the recent State Auditor's findings?

In my mind, that option should be as high on the list as school closures. However, I realize it doesn't fit within Wednesday's agenda and may come later on.

Charlie Mas said...

solvaygirl1972 wrote:
"I guess Charlie see no hope, or reason, to have a QUALITY middle and high school in the southend. Let's just close all the schools south of the ship canal and make southend kids ride long metro rides to somewhere else."

First, I think we have both hope and reason to see a quality middle school at SouthShore and at The New School (in the AAA Building), and a quality high schools at Cleveland, Franklin, and Garfield - even if Garfield does not have APP.

I do not, however, see reason to expect a quality middle school in the AAA. The school has a long record of failure in that regard. Is there anyone who thinks we should - after all these years - see it become a high performing and popular middle school choice?

Other than closing the AAA's middle school program, the only other population switch I recommended for middle school in the southend was from Aki Kurose to SouthShore - moving the program further south into a new building with a new principal and a new staff. I think that gives it a new chance to build a quality program.

The population switch that I was recommending for southend high schools was to close Rainier Beach and make room for the 400 southend high school students now at Rainier Beach by moving the 400 APP students north, to a more central location for an all-city program, to a location with better transportation access, to a location closer to the homes of the students, and to a location with a smaller difference between the economic and academic characteristics of the program students and the general education students - as recommended by the APP review. Just think - no more talk about a segregated Garfield. No more snippy remarks about the "little White college upstairs".

Does the Garfield community need APP to make a successful school? I don't think so.

So this hardly represents giving up on the southend or requiring families to go north for programs (other than APP).

Summit K-12, by the way, would move significantly closer to the southend and would be in a significantly more accessible location for southend families.

Don't tell me that freeway noise makes the John Marshall building unusable. That's not the case at Seward (TOPS), which is across the street from the freeway. Surely there are some effective soundproofing techniques and technology that can be applied. What do they use in the Highline District to block out airplane noise?

The Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, while moving north a little bit, would move to locations more accessible to transportation than a residential neighborhood at the top of Queen Anne and the middle school and high school parts would be close but separated - as recommended in the bilingual review - and would have access to English-speaking peers - as recommended in the bilingual review.

There is nothing in this set of proposals that indicates giving up on the southend in any way.

Who is giving up on the possibility of a quality program at Rainier Beach? Me - or the families of the 1800 students who choose to go further to school than to go to RBHS? Part of giving people what they want is to stop trying to get them to take what they don't want.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Denise, I haven't heard any talk about trimming jobs at the headquarters. Their defense to the State Auditor was that they were the largest and most complex district in the state. As I recall (but I don't have the audit in front of me), that still doesn't quite justify all the jobs.

One place that will likely see a loss of jobs is, ironically, Enrollment, once they get rid of the cumbersome VAX that needs so much hands-on tending. But that may be a year or more off and who knows? With a new enrollment plan, they may not want to cut anyone out until they have it up and rolling.